Spoiler alert: 'Life on Mars' ending (sorta) revealed!

Lifeonmars_lMemo to October Road creators Josh Appelbaum and Scott Rosenberg: All’s forgiven! The pair’s short-lived ABC soap made my ears bleed, but they more than made up for it with their out-of-this-world follow-up, Life on Mars — so much so that I’m almost tempted to give Road a second look on DVD. (I said almost.) Unfortunately, anemic ratings prompted ABC to abort Mars‘ mission after just 17 episodes, the last of which airs tomorrow night (10 pm/EST). The good news? Appelbaum and Rosenberg had enough notice to wrap up the time-tripping drama’s central mystery and give viewers what has become something of a rare commodity these days in TV land: closure. The even better news? Despite my merciless Road bashing, the classy duo agreed to get on the phone with me to spoil preview tomorrow’s must-see climax.

In the UK version, the fate of Sam was left very much up in the air. Please tell me your ending will be a little less ambiguous.
One hundred percent. There is a very clear and
definitive answer as to what his journey has been about and how all the
pieces over the past 17 hours play into that journey. At the same
time, we hope, like all great finales, it still leaves things open to
interpretation. But if there’s one thing we feel pretty good about it’s
that in the afterlife of Life on Mars on DVD or wherever, it will exist
as a cohesive, complete thought that will all make sense.

Did you always plan to conclude your version differently?
Right from the beginning. Anybody with access to
Wikipedia can find out how the [UK version] ended. So we were certain we wanted to do it differently. And it was kind of in prep on
the pilot that we stumbled upon what our ultimate ending was. We never
did anything that wouldn’t be explained by this ending. And we also
left clues along the way, so people that go back and watch it a second
time will go, “So that’s why they did this.” There were names, numbers,
all kinds of things.

How will the finale be structured? Will there be the standard case to solve, or is it all about wrapping up Sam’s story?
ROSENBERG: There’s a standard case, but it’s all a culmination episode.
It was going to be the same if it was the season finale or a series
finale. The only difference is if it was a season finale it would have
ended with a very different Act Six, with cliffhangers and that sort of
thing. [Sam’s] mother and father play very heavily in it. Sam’s emotional
journey was really about his past and his family… And without saying too much, there’s a major climax with Sam and Annie’s journey together.

Will Lisa Bonet be in the episode?
ROSENBERG: She is not in it. She was for a half-second, and then we decided not to.

Is that a hint as to what decade he ultimately ends up in?
APPELBAUM: [to Scott] Good job stumbling into that one, Rosenberg. [Laughs]

You like how I did that?

APPELBAUM: Unbelievable!

This isn’t my first time at the rodeo.
ROSENBERG: Let’s start over: Lisa Bonet is in the episode. [Laughs]

Too late! Moving on, will the show definitely be on DVD?

Oh, yeah.

There weren’t clearance issues with all the popular music you featured?

We only cleared songs if they allowed us to use it forever, and it wasn’t that difficult. Music is so important to us, both in this and in October Road. Remember that one, Michael?

Hmm… it rings a bell.

[Laughs] You’re like, “I tried not to.”
APPELBAUM: [Laughs] He’s like, “It was a bad case of indigestion.”

Last question: What’s the deal with the tiny robot?

The robot is totally explained away [in the finale]. By
Wednesday night at 11 you will know what the robot is, and I’m sure you
will be annoyed. [Laughs]

Comments (191 total) Add your comment
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  • RP

    Watched this in the beginning and thought it was pretty good but the arc/mystery didn’t really hold me (partly because I thought the Wiki entry already revealed what it was). I think I’ll be tuning into the finale though, it sounds good.

  • JB

    Um, isn’t there a chance this is good (as opposed to Road) because they just copied a show that had already been made?

  • steve

    One of the best shows on TV… Wish it were sticking around. It’s definitely water cooler talk at my office. The mystery has kept me watching… plus the cast is outstanding. I love the references to such things like Laptops, CD’s, Nixon’s Resignation, or when Sam says I saw that movie years ago when it in fact just came out during the timeline of the show! The soundtrack is great too!

  • KD

    Great show! I’ll miss it. I loved seeing how different things were then than now, and I especially loved the great music. (I graduated from high school in 1973–the music brings back lots of memories.)

  • gm

    We initially had some trouble getting into the show since we were such fans of the BBC verion but in the last few weeks the show has really started to click! Good scripts and good cast – then the bozos go and cancel the show to just bring us another cop show! How about sticking with something and giving it a chance – like I did!!!

  • Fatima

    I’m going to miss Annie. Gretchen Mol did such a great job with her and I truly believe she’s one of the most likable television characters of all time.

  • Lily

    Jason O’Mara was much better when he got to use his natural Irish accent. Something about his American persona and voice is too bland.

  • Diamondgirl

    Re; Jason’s accent; I think there have been far too mayn actors lately (cough cough – Hugh Laurie) sporting American accents who sound much better and more interesting using the speech patterns they have naturally. Let people use their real accents! I don;t need everyone on tv to be American!

  • Don

    Like the other well-crafted shows before it, Life on Mars is slipping into oblivion while scummy reality shows continue to dominate network programming.
    Cutting-edge programming should go directly to cable, where it can sustain a small but enthusiastic audience

  • tricia

    october road was brilliant. it was dawson’s creek at 30 for the dawson’s creek crowd. they even kept it in small town Massachusetts.

  • Oli

    Love this show. Too bad it was canceled, and was also a fan of October Road. Great shows never last.

  • G

    I have to agree that BOTH shows were great and BOTH shows were cancelled before their time. At least the UK version vets of Life on Mars have a second life in Ashes to Ashes (same concept only with a girl in the 80’s) I liked both the UK and American versions and stand alone series and it will be missed greatly!! :-(

  • Oh well

    Great cast. I’m going to miss this show, it really crept up on me how much I started to look forward to it. At least ABC is letting us get some closure. That’s rare these days. I just hope this whole cast gets back on TV quickly!

  • BHM1304

    Where am I suppose to get my Gretchen Mol fix now? Steve McPherson remains the biggest a-hole in the known universe. I can’t wait ’til ABC sinks behind NBC as the worst network on television.
    Maybe they should give Shondra Rhimes another hour so douchebags everywhere can rejoice.

  • Larry

    I can’t believe this great show gets canceled and unscripted caca like the Bachelor keeps shoveling the same crap year after year. If there is Life on Mars, lets hope that its more fair than it is in a network boardroom. See what I did there?

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